Recent Graduate Awarded a Rhodes Scholarship

Recent Graduate Awarded a Rhodes Scholarship

Beauclaire Mbanya Jr. ’20 selected for celebrated program to study at Oxford University.

Next October, Beauclaire Mbanya Jr. ’20 will begin a two-year paid graduate program in engineering science as a Rhodes Scholar at Oxford University in Great Britain.

The native of Douala, Cameroon, became Rochester’s third Rhodes Scholar this fall when he was named one of two recipients selected from candidates who are outside the program’s existing competition zones.

Mbanya plans to conduct research at the intersection of sustainable energy, technology, and policy development. His ultimate goal is to advise government and private institutions in developing nations on sustainable energy solutions and economic development. Mbanya says his years at Rochester helped him develop the passions and traits he hopes to use for global good.

“I learned to be resilient and always reminded myself that the challenges were designed for me to grow intellectually,” he says.

“I built relationships with mentors who became part of my support system and constantly challenged me to embody the Meliora value of ‘ever better.’ And I learned that it’s impossible to succeed without being part of a community.”
Beauclaire Mbanya Jr. ’20

Beauclaire Mbanya Jr. ’20
Photograph: Yassine Khalfalli

First awarded in 1902, the Rhodes is the world’s oldest international scholarship program. More than 100 students are selected each year. Mbanya was named a Global Rhodes Scholar—the third University student or alumnus to earn the scholarship, and the first in 56 years.

Rochester’s previous two Rhodes Scholars were the late Robert Babcock ’37, who served as lieutenant governor of Vermont, and J. Timothy Londergan ’65, a professor emeritus of physics at Indiana University–Bloomington.

Mbanya decided on Rochester his senior year in high school after a visit by former dean of admissions Jonathan Burdick. “He talked about Rochester’s support for international students and the campus’s spirit of community,” Mbanya says. “By the time he was finished, I had decided to apply early decision.”

A Renaissance and Global Scholar, the chemical engineering major was awarded a 2019 Davis Projects for Peace grant, a selective awards program designed to support student projects that promote peace and intercultural understanding.

As a senior, he received a highly competitive Schwarzman Scholarship to pursue a master’s degree in global affairs from Tsinghua University in China.

“He was someone who took full advantage of every opportunity,” says Wendi Heinzelman, dean of the Hajim School of Engineering & Applied Sciences. “I cannot wait to see what the future holds for this very promising leader.”

The Rhodes Global Scholarship was launched in 2018 to enable students from any country to apply and is awarded to two academically outstanding young leaders who are motivated to address global challenges and promote international understanding and peace. Mbanya was selected with Hanna Yovita of Indonesia out of 80 nominations from 46 countries.

Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, Mbanya has been working on his Schwarzman program from the Rochester home of his host family, Raphael Tshibangu ’78M (MD), ’82M (Res) and Sherry Perry-Tshibangu ’75.

Mbanya served as a senator in the University’s chapter of the National Society of Black Engineers, worked on a Chem-E-Car project that created a car powered by a chemical energy source, was a peer tutor in the Department of Chemistry, and sang with the Pan-African a cappella group. He also volunteered providing the elderly assistance with home repairs and at a food bank.

“What has always struck me are his sense of purpose, authenticity, and humility,” says Belinda Redden, director of fellowships in Arts, Sciences & Engineering. “He is without pretense or affectation and always expresses gratitude for whatever is done on his behalf.”

This article originally appeared in the fall 2020 issue of Rochester Review magazine.

– Jim Mandelero